Flavel on the Christian Duty to Observe God’s Providence

My good pastor read this whole chapter from John Flavel’s The Mystery of Providence to our congregation last night. I have never heard him read something to lengthy to us; he obviously felt it was important. You’ll see why if you click! Flavel knows his Bible. It’s worth a read and some meditation.

Five Reasons to Buy Logos

Several concerned friends have contacted me about a blog post detailing Five Reasons Not to Buy Logos.

I urge everyone considering such a purchase to read the five reasons, but you could save about 80% of your time reading that post by being a regular reader of βλογάπη! I’ve made a lot of the same points:

  • BibleWorks focuses on the Bible text while Logos is a digital library. It’s clear which is more important and therefore ought to be purchased first!
  • Don’t have a baseball-card-collecting mentality when it comes to Logos books, because you won’t use—and shouldn’t use—a lot of the fluff they put in their packages.
  • Before you buy, add up the actual Amazon value of only the books you will use and compare it to the cost of the package or set you are considering.
  • Logos can give you an overwhelming number of hits, lessening the value of its easy searchability.
  • Be aware that Logos simply can’t make the claim to likely permanence that physical books can. Will you be able to access those books in America’s dystopian apocalyptic future, when the Democrats finally rule us all with an iron fist and Centrifugal Bumble Puppy is the only game in town?

Although I’m not willing to call Logos “deceptive,” I agree with nearly everything else he said. I genuinely hope some people choose not to buy Logos because of his post. To me, this is especially true of “non-professionals” who don’t have as good an idea of the value of what they’re getting in a given package. Sorry, Logos!
Even so, I’m prepared now to offer…

Five Reasons to Buy Logos:

1. The Math Might Work Out Differently for You

This blogger admits he didn’t do the math. I did. Before I purchased any package, I sat down and made a chart totaling the value of the books I would use vs. their cheapest price on Amazon. Logos, for me and my particular needs as a seminary student and doctoral candidate, came out ahead.

2. Portability Does Have Significant Value

And not just for missionaries. I find that the “portability” of having all the resources I actually use—mainly commentaries and a few reference works—available to me on all my computers and devices is a significant benefit. Now if only I could stop letting those devices distract me with their other bells and whistles… (Seriously, that’s a con you should consider.)

3. Good Deals Do Exist. Sometimes. On Leap Year. When Certain Planets Align Properly.

Logos’ new purchase model is a great convenience to customers: you buy something and it downloads to your computer instantly. No fiddling with product codes. I love it. But it also cuts out some middlemen who somehow managed to offer good deals—like that guy at Rejoice Christian Software from whom I purchased several commentary sets and reference works for excellent prices. I stopped watching Logos’ Pre-Pub and Community Pricing deals a while back. They flooded my Google Reader with too much stuff I wasn’t interested in. But someone in a different stage of his library-creation may not consider that wasted time. If you have a lot of patience you can still find some good deals. One time I got the whole WBC from an Australian bookstore for $250!

4. The Benefits of Immediate Access May For You Outweigh the Risk of Losing Your Library In 20 Years

When I bought the Logos Gold package (and later Platinum) I knew I was about to write a dissertation in a year or so. I was going to have a brand new, beautiful wife that I wanted to be around. Working in my home office by using my own library was a huge help to us, because it meant I was at least at home with my bride even if I couldn’t be sitting on the couch with her. I feel I got my money’s worth from that factor alone, and if I lost it all tomorrow I’d be upset but not gipped. Additional benefits have arisen: now that I finally have an iPad after two years of fighting covetousness, I can do sermon prep on the couch and in a comfortable position. We like this.

5. All the Cool People Are Doing It

I couldn’t think of a more attention-grabbing heading, because this is really a small point: notice that this blogger still has purchased something from Logos: the Theological Journal Library. Just because you pass on the packages doesn’t mean you can get no benefit from Logos.

Conclusion

Biblical scholars, certainly—and preachers, too—need to consider that the shortcuts provided by Logos may not be beneficial. They can and do encourage, as that blogger pointed out, a superficial engagement with your library. That’s the nature of the medium. I am trying to fight this, but it’s hard. For others, maybe it isn’t a fight because they’re already so self-disciplined. Fine. But I’m guessing that most of us need to think carefully through pros and cons like these before plunking down any money. That anonymous blogger has done us all a good service.

Dempster on Samson

A perceptive observation from a book full of such insights into the Old Testament:

Stephen Dempster:

The structure of Judges shows that Israel gradually descends into a moral and political quagmire, and this is mirrored in the sequence of judges themselves, most of whom are questionable characters. But the last one is a particularly striking mirror-image of the nation. Samson, the supernaturally born Israelite, was set apart as a Nazirite with a distinctive vocation. He constantly breaks his religious vows, is enamoured of Philistine women, loses his identity and physical strength through these encounters, becomes a slave and has his eyes gouged out by the enemy. He represents his own people, who had a supernatural origin, were set apart from among the nations with a distinctive vocation, broke their vows and were enamoured of foreign idols, until finally they lost their identity and spiritual power and became the blind slaves of their oppressors in exile.

Grudem on Selfishness

I think the following comments from Grudem’s Systematic Theology are very insightful—and needful for preachers. It’s easy to preach so hard against selfishness that one erases part of the image of God!

Other definitions of the essential character of sin have been suggested. Probably the most common definition is to say that the essence of sin is selfishness.1 However, such a definition is unsatisfactory because

  • Scripture itself does not define sin this way.
  • Much self-interest is good and approved by Scripture, as when Jesus commands us to “lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven” (Matt. 6:20), or when we seek to grow in sanctification and Christian maturity (1 Thess. 4:3), or even when we come to God through Christ for salvation. God certainly appeals to the self-interest of sinful people when he says, “Turn back, turn back from your evil ways; for why will you die, O house of Israel?” (Ezek. 33:11). To define the essential character of sin as selfishness will lead many people to think that they should abandon all desire for their own personal benefit, which is certainly contrary to Scripture.
  • Much sin is not selfishness in the ordinary sense of the term—people can show selfless devotion to a false religion or to secular and humanistic educational or political goals that are contrary to Scripture, yet these would not be due to “selfishness” in any ordinary sense of the word. Moreover, hatred of God, idolatry, and unbelief are not generally due to selfishness, but they are very serious sins.
  • Such a definition could suggest that there was wrongdoing or sinfulness even on God’s part, since God’s highest goal is to seek his own glory (Isa. 42:8; 43:7, 21; Eph. 1:12).

Likewise, Jonathan Edwards asked, “[Why] make any promises of happiness, or denounce any threatenings of misery, to him who neither loved his own happiness nor hated his own misery?” (Ethical Writings, ed. Paul Ramsey, vol. 8 in WJE (New Haven: Yale, 1989), 254–255.) In the same work, Charity and Its Fruits, Edwards lists multiple passages of Scripture in both testaments which motivate good deeds with offers of reward:

“What is bestowed in doing good to others is not lost, as if a man throws what he had into the sea. But see what Solomon says, Ecclesiastes 11:1, ‘Cast thy bread upon the waters: for thou shalt find it….’ What is so given is lent and committed … to the Lord, who no doubt will pay. Proverbs 19:17, ‘He that hath pity upon the poor lendeth unto the Lord; and that which he hath given will he pay him again.’ He will not only pay, but with great increase. Luke 6:38, ‘Give, and it shall be given unto you.’” Ibid., 216.

We who care about our own and others’ sanctification have to draw the line between selfishness and a biblically oriented self-interest, a self-interest which points ultimately to God, the only one who can satisfy the desires He created in us.

Our hearts are restless, until they find rest in Thee.

Truth and Beauty

Derek Kidner is a commentator who writes not just insightfully but beautifully. Don’t miss his commentaries on Genesis, Psalms (vol. 1 and vol. 2), Proverbs, and Ecclesiastes. They are gifts to the church.

I’m not familiar with Stephen Motyer (a relation to J. Alec, I presume?), but perhaps there’s something in the British blood he shares with Kidner that adds beauty to his truth. I can’t think of easy American parallels…

While studying Jacob’s wrestling match with God this evening, I read the following from Motyer in the New Dictionary of Biblical Theology article entitled “Israel (Nation)” (emphasis mine):

Malachi is the saddest, as well as the latest, book in the OT. Malachi accuses the post-exilic community of the same sins which caused the exile 150 years previously: half-hearted worship conceived as mere performance of the cult (1:6–14); corruption among the priests (2:1–9); social and sexual unfaithfulness (2:10–17). The people have not changed (3:7). But Malachi insists also that Yahweh is unchanging: ‘I, Yahweh, do not change: therefore you, children of Jacob, are not finished!’ (3:6, author’s translation). Yahweh is still wrestling with Jacob, determined to make the new name stick. And Malachi looks forward to the coming of ‘the messenger of the covenant’, who will refine and purify Israel’s worship and bring judgment on the corrupt (3:1–5).

So the OT ends on a note of paradox: Israel is still Jacob, but Jacob is still Israel. The covenant stands, but the covenant promises both salvation and judgment, both a blessing and a curse (Deut. 28). How will Yahweh’s commitment to save Israel be realized, in the face of the nation’s constant failure to respond to him?



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